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Japanese Embassy warns nationals to be on guard in Philippines.

MANILA, June 13 Kyodo

The Japanese Embassy in Manila on Thursday warned its nationals in the Philippines to be extra careful in the wake of a series of drugging and mugging cases victimizing Japanese and other foreign nationals.

The embassy said it recorded at least eight cases of Japanese nationals falling prey to a criminal gang in 2000, and at least 15 cases last year.

This year, the embassy said five cases have so far been reported.

The latest incident reported Sunday involves a Japanese consultant who was apparently drugged and robbed by a gang roaming Manila's financial district of Makati.

The police said the Japanese man was drugged soon after being talked into getting into a car and woke up in San Juan later in the day without his wristwatch and cash.

Last month, police said a Spanish restaurateur, two Israelis and a New Zealander were also victimized. On Monday, police said a French national had also fallen prey to the robbers.

Police on Monday found the body of a South Korean diplomat who had been missing since last Thursday.

A spokesman for the South Korean Embassy in Manila said the diplomat disappeared after a night out with a fellow South Korean and a Filipino who befriended them. Investigations revealed that the diplomat died of suffocation.

The death of the South Korean prompted the Philippine police to focus on the so-called Ativan gang notorious for its method of drugging victims before robbing them of jewelry and cash.

Gang members win the trust of their prospective victims by striking a conversation and offering them drinks or food laced with Ativan, a sedative. After taking the bait, police said the victims feel dizzy and too weak to resist their attackers.

Police also issued a warning to foreign nationals to stay away from strangers they meet in malls, bars and in Manila's streets to avoid falling prey to the gang.

''We are advising all foreigners not to entertain strangers and avoid 'honky-tonk' areas when they go drinking and mixing with women,'' said Philippine National Police Director General Leandro Mendoza.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jun 17, 2002
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